What is PFPE?
Perfluoropolyether lubricants were originally developed for applications where lubricants had to be oil and fuel resistant. PFPE was first developed for military use in November 1962 as a non-reactive and inert lubricant. Since PFPE grease and lubricants don’t react with oxygen or other reactive chemicals, they’ve been the top choice over traditional greases and lubricants for high-performance commercial and automotive uses.
Being that perfluoropolyether greases are non-reactive and inert, as lubricants, they can be used in a wide range of different applications.
Some PFPE facts:
- Perfluoropolyether is non-toxic and non-flammable. Making it safe to use in extremely hot environments.
- PFPE is compatible with many different materials, including all plastics, metals, paints and seals.
- As a grease or lubricant, PFPE is very stable and exhibits low volatility. For example, if being used in an extremely hot environment (204 C), weight loss of grease/lubricant will be less than 2%). This is unmatched by other conventional lubricants.
- Not only can PFPE operate at high temperatures, it also functions at temperatures as low as -40 C for automotive purposes.
- We mentioned it previously, but PFPE is chemically inert making it non-reactive with other chemicals such as chlorine gas, sulfuric acid, oxygen or other solvents.
- PFPE is highly oxidative and thermally stable. Maximum operating temperature exceeds 288 C.
- As you can imagine, PFPE makes a great lubricant as it forms an antiwear film on contact surfaces.
- It’s resistant to radiation and doesn’t degrade in quality when exposed to gamma rays.
More Advantages of PFPE over Conventional Grease
If you’re operating a clean environment where hostile chemicals are used or a vacuum environment, you’ll want something that will outperform a normal lubricant or grease; i.e. perfluoropolyether. PFPE is especially advantageous if being used in fluctuating temperatures. Varying temperatures are notorious for causing premature equipment, mostly due to sub-par lubricants being used. PFPE is long lasting and as we mentioned before, immune to damage caused by extremely high or low temperatures.
As mentioned, PFPE’s are generally non-toxic, non-flammable and are capable of enduring unusually high loads. Should you need something even more durable, PFPE lubricants can be enhanced with additives designed for extreme pressures often exhibited in heavy-loaded gears. Should you require additional rust-inhibitors, there are fortified PFPE’s available.
Common Applications of PFPE (perfluoropolyether) Greases & Fluids
- Bearing grease for aircraft instruments
- Coats and seals gaskets, joint bearings and taper plug valves in aircraft fuel systems
- Lubricant for O-rings and valves in oxygen equipment
- Seals and lubricates O-rings in pharmaceutical equipment
- Bearing and pump seal lubricant in strong oxidizer or chlorine services
- Pinion and rack disc drive lubricant
- Lubricates actuator bearings and spindle in disc drives
- Lubricates bearings, gears and pulleys in Class 100 and other clean manufacturing environments
- Deep space camera mechanical component lubricant
- Coats mechanical components of astronaut space suit bearings and breathing apparatus’s
- Acts as a great mold release agent in plastic injection molding
- Bearing and oven conveyor chain lubricant
- Lubrication of air conditioning bearing and cabin pressurization valves on aircrafts
- Lubricant for plasma etching equipment
- Lubricant in ABS braking systems
See our list of 10 uses for PFPE grease as well.
The list of applications for PFPE lubricants and greases is nearly endless – this is just a small sample.
There are, however, some limitations for PFPE’s
When exposed to extremely high temperatures (above 204 C) alongside certain materials, like titanium alloys or non-passivated aluminum, there is likely to be some degradation. During degradation, toxic and corrosive gasses are often released, so it’s important to make sure you’re operating in a well-ventilated area if doing so. Additionally, acids such as aluminum chloride have shown to cause degradation at lower temperatures.